Landing a contract with the Department of Defense gives you a rare opportunity to boost your manufacturing venture.

This is a dream every manufacturer would not forfeit. However, before contracting with DoD, you must meet stringent compliance requirements. 

Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) is an initiative of the DoD to avert cybersecurity concerns for NGOs participating in the supply chain.

CCMC boasts the protection of delicate government information and enhances the supply chain's dependability. 

CMMC does not only apply to Department of Defense major contractors but also to all contractors who fulfill the CMMC requirements.

Today, the certification is only valid for DoD projects, but other federal agencies consider adopting CMMC in other purchasing processes. 

CMMC Requirements 

CMMC was affected in late 2020.

The regulation was created to supplement NIST 800-171 and DFARS regulations to handle controlled unclassified information.

The CMMC process requires organizations contracting with the Department of Defense to work together with a third-party auditor to obtain the certification. 

The new set of strict audits ensures suppliers and manufacturers contracting with DoD meet the minimum requirements.

From late 2020 to early 2021, any company that contracts with the Department of Defense will need a CMMC certification. Also, businesses that deal with CUI need level 3 of CMMC certification. 

It's important to note that CMMC requirements can supplement DFARS regulations but not replace them. 

Your manufacturing company must pass an audit assessment from an accredited third-party auditor to obtain the certification.

Given that this is a new regulation, it's advisable to pass the certification as soon as possible. And delay will affect your company's knack to contract with DoD. In addition, being audited averts false claims for compliance. 

CMMC Levels Your Manufacturing Can Attain

CMMC works on a tiered approach that accentuates DFARS requirements.

The framework consists of five levels that manufacturers mature into as time goes by. Each maturity level has a set of cybersecurity practices and processes that need to be followed.   

Before creating CMMC, contractors who wanted to contract with DoD had to comply with NIST 800-171 regulations.

But small businesses found it hard to achieve the set compliance in time. This was due to a lack of dedicated IT staff or security experts. With such hurdles, attaining basic cybersecurity was a far-fetched dream. 

On the other hand, large conglomerates easily achieved full NIST 800-171 standards. 

However, these companies found no reasons to implement continuous improvements. To create a balance and encourage improvements, CMMC implemented a tiered approach.

The maturity levels come in five levels, with Level 1 being the lowest in the hierarchy and Level 5 being the highest and most stringent. 

This means that to get to Level 2, you must comply with practices and processes for Level 2. Each CMMC maturity level focuses on different techniques depending on the sensitivity of the information. 

These levels include:

Level #1: Basic Cybersecurity Hygiene - Performed

This is the minimum or the lowest level of CMMC certification required by FCI. Guided by the FAR, this stage consists of 17 security controls. At Level 1, the company has incorporated the best cybersecurity practices. It's an easy-to-achieve basic level that doesn't necessarily need any security process documentation. 

Any manufacturing company aiming to contract with DoD should at least obtain Level 1 certification. 

Level #2: Intermediate Cyber Hygiene - Documented

With continuous improvements, you then proceed to Level 2. Unlike Level 1, this level is difficult, and all security processes must be performed and documented. All 55 practices tabulated in NIST 800-171 standards must be adhered to, along with the common FAR basics. 

You must record strategic plans, policies, and standard operating procedures at this level. Documentation ensures that policies and SOPs get practiced in the same manner. In addition, compliance with necessary regulations will push your level to the next stage.

Level #3: Good Cybersecurity Hygiene - Managed

To obtain Level 3 CMMC certification, manufacturing firms must provide a detailed plan showing how they'll implement cybersecurity awareness. The plan can cover the following areas:

  • Goals, mission, and vision
  • Require training
  • Project plans
  • Role and responsibilities of prime stakeholders

Besides, you need to comply with 20 additional practices and FAR basics. But if you're compliant with DFARs requirements, you will be 86% through to Level 3 certification. 

Level #4: Proactive - Reviewed

Level 4 will pose some challenges, and it's not easy to come by. The contractors are required to fulfill the requirements of the preceding levels. In addition, level 4 certification requires you to review, measure cybersecurity practices, and document the effectiveness of the practices. 

The extra 156 practices needed in this stage boost your business's response and detection abilities. It ensures that you adapt and address the dynamic techniques and tactics used by APTs. At level 4, the primary focus changes from only protecting CUI to defending against APTs. Not many companies pass through this level since it requires you to pass through all the requirements for level 3. 

Level #5: Progressive Cybersecurity Hygiene – Optimizing 

The CMMC level 5 certification is the highest ranking in CMMC. A contractor attaining this level must demonstrate sophisticated capabilities to defend CUI from advanced persistent threats (APTs). 

At Level 5, you must have optimized and standardized cybersecurity practices and processes. It indicates your company has been actively involved in continuous information collaboration and sharing. Your cybersecurity defense is progressively reviewed and optimized to prevent APTs. 

Determine The Desired Maturity Level 

Cyberattacks have become rampant, and it doesn't spare anyone. Operating in an unsecured environment leaves your business prone to hackers. Approximately 43% of cybercrimes target small and medium-sized enterprises. 

Businesses are looking to enhance their cybersecurity programs against APTs and phishing. The higher the levels of compliance, the stronger the certification. 

Advantages of Implementing the CMMC for Manufacturers

Companies have realized that attaining CMMC certification is fundamental to their businesses. As such, there is an ever-growing and dynamic network of third-party certification companies. CMMC compliance comes with the following benefits:

  • Strong data security- Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification incorporates standards established in the past to deal with advanced security attacks. Therefore, your manufacturing business can benefit by having an extra layer of protection against breaches. 
  • Contracting with DoD successfully – CMMC is the DoD's initiative to allow contractors and subcontractors to work efficiently with the Department of Defense. 
  • Collaborative risk approach – Assessing cybersecurity protocols in the organization reinforces the defenses and offers ideal solutions. Simultaneous potential threats can happen but might not hit the entire network. With advanced CMMC certification, any breaches can be analyzed, monitored, and controlled against such violations in the future while keeping your technical controls in check. 
  • Better recovery – Breaches happen, but how quickly can your company recover from them? Fortunately, CMMC has articulately outlined ways for recovering from a breach. Transparency creates more trust between the vendor and customer. 

Cyber threats target corporate systems, and there's no accurate method of preventing breaches. But CMMC was created to give contractors an extra layer of protection.

The outlined guidelines in the document give your manufacturing environment a better chance to avoid breaches. And in case a breach happens, you won't lose sensitive data. 

Conclusion

CMMC is an accumulation of various cybersecurity standards. It's an input of DFARS, FAR, and NSIT. If a manufacturer wants to contract with DoD, obtaining CMMC compliance is imperative.

Published on:

August 24, 2022